ROME - SOME 60,000 jobs could be lost in Italy's auto sector unless the government comes to its rescue, union leaders and Fiat's chief executive said.
The government is to open talks this week on possible aid for the auto sector, which has been hit hard by the global economic crisis.
'Without a government intervention, the risk that 60,000 workers in the auto sector will have to stay at home is real,' Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was quoted as saying in Italian daily La Repubblica and other newspapers on Tuesday.
'We are asking for an intervention for the entire auto sector,' Mr Marchionne said, speaking during a meeting in Turin on Monday.
'It's not a matter of helping Fiat but of aiding an important sector and the whole economy with it.'
Earlier on Monday, the same figure had been given by Bruno Vitali of the Fim-Cisl union.
Italy's auto industry employs 275,000 people overall, according to figures released by the Italian Association of the Automotive Industry.
Last week Fiat, Italy's largest private-sector employer, reported a 70 per cent drop in fourth quarter profit. The company blamed the result on a slump in demand for its cars as the economic slowdown hit its key western European and south American markets.
Fiat also said it expects demand to drop a further 20 percent in 2009.
Talks between government, unions and industry officials are set to open on Wednesday. -- AP